Can media education be gamified? A Q&A with one of Fakey’s developers
Can media education be gamified?
Some game developers think so, and there’s even research to back up their effectiveness.
IFCN from last week newsletter has compiled a list of seven games launched in recent years aimed at teaching users how to spot and verify misinformation they encounter online.
The games each take different approaches to educating consumers of digital news, from a choose-your-own adventure that puts the player in the shoes of a journalist to the IFCN’s own card game that is set in a fictional country.
Bad news, which was developed in the Netherlands, puts players in the role of a fake news writer and encourages them to get as many subscribers as possible without losing their credibility.
Research carried out at the University of Cambridge found that after completing the game, users were 21% less likely to believe fake news, concluding that bad news increases “psychological resistance” to mis/disinformation.
Fake, developed by the Network Science Institute at Indiana University, uses a different strategy. It allows players to log into their own Facebook or Twitter account and then invites them to react to posts on their feed.
Players can either “Share”, “Like” or “Fact Check” a post, and after clicking on one of these, they find out if the article is from a mainstream source or from a clickbait source. Depending on the players’ ability to spot fake stories, their “skill” rating increases or decreases.
The IFCN spoke with Mihai Avram, a PhD student in information science at the University of Illinois, about the development of Fakey and the impact he hopes the game will have.
The following interview has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.
What inspired Fakey? Why did you decide to focus on people’s feeds as the central idea of the game?
Fakey was inspired by discussing a way to study and solve the problem of misinformation in social media by treating each story as a “profile” similar to the “swipe” function in dating/networking platforms such as Tinder, for example.
It wasn’t my idea so I can’t take credit for it — my advisor Philippe Menczer came up with the idea and I just corroborated and made it happen.
Deciding to focus on people’s news feeds was something we incorporated later when creating the game to mimic social media experiences instead of sweeping experiences.
We wanted to put users in a place where they would naturally interact with news and fake news and that wasn’t on dating/networking platforms; it was on social media sites. So we wanted to simulate this world in the game.
Did you encounter any difficulties during its development?
One of the challenges we faced was the notion of classifying what is disinformation and what is not.
One of the caveats of the game is that due to the nature of the automated game (e.g. news is streamed and not verified by human fact checkers) we had to come up with a strategy that consisted programmatically labeling news content as “true or false.”
This is a very difficult thing to do that even humans struggle with. What we decided to do is to use the source of the article as a means of classifying whether the article is likely to come from a credible or non-credible source.
We have used various lists of expert fact-checking curators who constantly update the domains and indicate which sites might be posting a lot of fake news/misinformation/propaganda etc.
Therefore, we ended up having domains and labels for domains (e.g. fake-site.com tends to spread misinformation, clickbaits, conspiracies, etc.) and we would assess the rating of user responses based on these expert-provided heuristics.
How popular is the game? What are your hopes for the impact of the game?
Although I don’t have specific measurements on this issue, I can say that thousands of people have played it and a few dozen have played it extensively and expressed interest in using it in classrooms or passing the word about it or to offer suggestions for improvement. .
As with everything I do, I hope it can have an impact; however, I am fully aware of the sacrifices and difficult decisions that must be made in light of the complexity of the world, so it is sometimes difficult to decide what needs to be done to maximize impact.
Do you believe that games like this can really help increase the media literacy of social media users? Was Fakey inspired by another media literacy game you’ve seen?
Yes! Fakey was not modeled on any game; however, perhaps some second-hand inspiration was taken from other media literacy games we came across, such as Factitious, PolitiTruth, Get Bad News, Fake it to Make it, and Post Facto, to name a few.
Did you design it with a specific audience in mind?
It has been a recurring theme that using it for classrooms would be a good placement for this tool.
However, we didn’t design it with any demographic in mind. If more emphasis were to be placed on this tool, classroom placement might be a good start.